It is nice to have gospel texts from the first chapters of different gospel accounts. Last week the text was from the Gospel according to Mark. This week it is from the Gospel according to John. And next week it will be from the Gospel according to Luke. Unfortunately all the texts are not from the initial verses of each account.
The starting point of a text is an important thing. And it probably should go without saying that the ending point is also important. And the beginning and ending of the Gospel according to John is, in a word, incredible.
I used the word 'incredible' because, first of all, the writer speaks to the present day person. Twice, near the end, he writes some words so that YOU, the reader or listener, may believe. It is almost as if there is a voice inside of your head--but THIS voice is OUTSIDE your head. Your head can get messed up, just like the rest of you! This voice cannot get messed up.
I also used the word 'incredible' because, in the first chapter, John goes back to the VERY beginning and tries to relate how God could take on flesh and be born as a man. And, if that is not incredible, I do not know what is. We need help to get our minds around it.
John the Baptist was, as the text says, sent from God, and he tried to get the people used to something significant happening--the Jesus event. Last week, in the Gospel according to Mark, John described Jesus as powerful. This week, John connects Jesus to the God of the Old Testament, but he also describes him as standing in the midst of the religious leaders and saying that, unfortunately, the religious leaders do not know him (John 1:26; and the text makes it emphatic that it is the religious leaders who do not know him).
It is unfortunate that many people think of the Gospel according to John as a 'spiritual' gospel. The reason for this is usually attributed to Clement of Alexandria. Eusebius writes about it in this way: 'Last of all, John, aware that the external details had been recorded in the Gospels, was urged by his disciples and divinely moved by the Spirit to compose a spiritual Gospel (Eusebius: The Church History, page 218; edited by Paul Maier).'
Unfortunately this quote has distracted people from the wonderful reality that this gospel account shares--that God became a man, a physical man. And the ramifications of this are huge.
A nice, new book that heads in this direction (although the author uses a different language to do that) is Gott wahrnehmen by Rainer Hirsch-Luipold. He examines some of the texts in John that affect the different senses and points out some of the wonderful ramifications of the incarnation. The taste of good wine (2:1-11), the smell of a dead body (11:1-12:11), and the eyes that see the resurrected Jesus--with blessings to those who do not see him (20:1-29) are all good things he writes about.
This kind of Spirit gets involved on our level--just like Jesus. Now THAT is Spiritual (with a capital 'S')!